As snow mounds continued to expand this winter, so many Mainers’ thoughts drifted to Florida. Leila Johnston, a Mt. Desert Island senior, was no exception.

“Definitely,” she said. “I’ve been looking forward to it since I committed.”

Johnston isn’t just planning a short visit. She’s committed to a swimming scholarship at Florida State.

So, no more snow. Just a lot of swimming, something Johnston is used to. Her commitment to Florida State is simply another step in her dedication to the sport.

“She has more (drive) than anyone I’ve ever coached,” MDI Coach Tony DeMuro said.

That says something, considering the longtime success of DeMuro’s program.

Johnston’s focus turned her ability into victory. She won two individual events at each of the last three Class B state championships – and was named Performer of the Meet at the last two. Last month she set two state records and almost a third, and also was part of two relay victories.

Now one more honor: Johnston is the Maine Sunday Telegram’s girls’ swimming Performer of the Year.

“She’s obviously a great athlete,” DeMuro said. But what makes her so successful is “definitely her drive and her work ethic.”

Johnston began swimming when she was 5 because that’s what her older siblings did. She tried softball in middle school (a line drive to the face ended that ambition) and track for one season, her freshman year. But she’s always concentrated on swimming and it’s paid off.

At the 2015 state championships, Johnston began the meet by taking part in MDI’s winning 200 medley relay, swimming a 24.86-second split for her 50-yard butterfly.

In the next event, Johnston won the 200 freestyle in a state-record time of 1:50.63, winning by 12 seconds.

“I was really happy with that,” Johnston said. “I wanted to set the tone for the rest of the team.”

In the 100 freestyle, Johnston won in another record time of 51.02.

But she was not done. Johnston tried to break her own state record in the 50 freestyle by swimming the opening leg of the 200 free relay. She swam 23.59 – missing her 2014 mark by 0.03 seconds – but still led the Trojans to another relay victory.

Before the season, Johnston wrapped up her college search. From several offers, she narrowed her choice to Florida State, James Madison, Duke, Arkansas and Virginia Tech. Her visit to Tallahassee made up her mind.

“I really liked the team and the coach (Frank Bradley). They seemed interested in me as a person, not just my times,” she said.

While most of the team is from Florida, the program has reached out to Maine before. Laura Flewelling of Scarborough recently swam for the Seminoles, and Colby Harvey of Cape Elizabeth (and Waynflete High) is a freshman on the team this year.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: KevinThomasPPH